If you’re a consumer or a foodservice operator looking for convenience, you can find it in the fresh-cut onion category.
Oxnard, Calif.-based Gills Onions LLC launched a retail line last fall and offers more than 100 stock-keeping units for foodservice, said Nelia Alamo, director of sales and marketing.
And, if you’ve asked for a slice of onion on your sandwich at a Subway restaurant, there’s a good chance that it came from River Point Farms, Hermiston, Ore., said Lenny Pelifian, vice president of operations.
Gills Onions specializes in value-added products, Alamo said.
“Everything we sell is at least peeled,” she said.
To help consumers deal with the recession, the company changed its retail packaging last October and introduced smaller packs of fresh-cut onions at a lower price.
There are 7-ounce containers of diced red, yellow, organic yellow onions and celery and onions and 6-ounce sizes of sliced red onions and a seasonal pack of sliced yellow sweet onions that relaunched in late April, she said,
“It’s all about convenience,” Alamo said.
It seems the company’s only challenge is getting the word out about its products.
“The (biggest) hurdle for us is creating awareness that people can buy precut onions,” Alamo said, so the firm is working closely with retailers to develop promotions calling attention to the category.
Although River Point Farms does not offer fresh-cut onions for retail, the company plans to head in that direction, Pelifian said.
The firm’s processing plant produces whole-peeled onions, diced onions, onion strips and half rings and ships in packaging ranging from 2-pound packs to 1,500 pound bins, mostly to foodservice operations.
“If you buy something at Subway with a red onion on it, 40 weeks out of the year, it’s ours,” Pelifian said. “We supply every Subway in North America.”
The company, which also services a number of other major quick-serve chains, processes more than 1 million pounds of onions a day and also ships bulk, fresh onions for foodservice.
At Gills Onions, foodservice offerings include more than 100 stock-keeping units ranging from 1-pound to 30-pound cartons, Alamo said.
Although it has not been a big growth area, she said, “Our foodservice business remains strong.”
Restaurants can save money on labor by ordering precut onions, she added.
So far, River Point, whose business is predicated on contracts, has been pretty much immune to the economic downturn, Pelifian said.
“As long as we can supply (the contracts), we pretty much stay stable,” he said. “We have not seen any kind of appreciable drop off.”
River Point recently added automatic onion peelers in its processing plant and is having drying equipment manufactured.
“That will allow us to penetrate the retail market,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of ideas for products that we’re currently testing.”
The company also is looking at ways to extend the shelf life of its products by a few days, and is experimenting with various package sizes, which should give the firm a better shot at retail business, he said.
“Within three years, I think we’re going to have a substantial retail presence,” Pelifian said.